Broken Years

It’s been so many long and broken years

Since we were happy and our hearts were true

Once upon a time you told me, I was the man for you

 

Two souls sleeping side by side

Love was eternal and our lives sublime

But now the chasm has grown wide

I pray each night that there is still time

 

I wear dark glasses to cover my eyes

There are secrets in them I can’t disguise

I say to you now, if I ever hurt your feelings, I apologise

 

I haven’t seen my children in thirteen years

That’s not easy to understand

The pain runs deep and never leaves

Some things in life the heart cannot withstand

 

I think that when my back was turned

The whole world behind me burned

It’s been a while since I crossed that broken stile

 

My body is scarred and my thoughts bruised

Life is now in overdrive on an eastern cruise

The evil that men do will always break them apart

They die strangled by guilt with an iron heart

 

I cried on that cold and frosty morn

I cried because our souls were torn

So much for tears, so much for these long and broken years

 

Poem: Song of Sorrow

They kill babes in their beds
Kids’ limbs torn to shreds
Old women left to die
With blood in their eye
They taunt them with terror
Then look at the horror
These people you see
Are like you and me

Can you hear the missiles whine?
Like some hellish pantomime
Now is the time
Yes, it’s the time
To Free Palestine.

They crucified Christ
An ultimate heist
Everywhere they travelled
Their pain was unravelled
Under King David’s star
They wandered afar
Nowhere was home
And far did they roam

Can you hear the missiles whine?
Like some hellish pantomime
Now is the time
Yes, it’s the time
To Free Palestine.

Even the Black Death
Was blamed on their breath
As babes were baptised
The Jew was despised
By Shakespeare and Shylock
No door could they unlock
From Poland to France
They tripped the death dance

Can you hear the missiles whine?
Like some hellish pantomime
Now is the time
Yes, it’s the time
To Free Palestine.

In their millions they died
And in the ovens they fried
Then the arms of the world
Towards them unfurled
The final solution
Needed quick resolution
By the kind British hand
They were given their land

Can you hear the missiles whine?
Like some hellish pantomime
Now is the time
Yes, it’s the time
To Free Palestine.

In the millions they came
Moses, Ruth, Abel and Cain
With gold pockets of money
To taste milk and honey
A rich land of ripe cereal
They found their state Israel
The West’s greatest friend
Which it would always defend

Can you hear the missiles whine?
Like some hellish pantomime
Now is the time
Yes, it’s the time
To Free Palestine.

But something is wrong
As I sing you this song
The new land was just fine
It was called Palestine
But it belonged to some others
Who had been their brothers
And it is hard to forgive
When you have nowhere to live

Can you hear the missiles whine?
Like some hellish pantomime
Now is the time
Yes, it’s the time
To Free Palestine.

For sixty years or more
Arabs were ground to the floor
They were crushed and berated
By the Jew they were hated
Their homes torn from them
Under beatings and phlegm
And their only base crime
Was to keep Palestine

Can you hear the missiles whine?
Like some hellish pantomime
Now is the time
Yes, it’s the time
To Free Palestine.

Now time’s gone full circle
Gaza’s been sliced like a Berkel
The Zionists’ hate
Has closed the last gate
So innocent eyes
Stare with fear to the skies
The artillery shell
Introduces children to hell

Can you hear the missiles whine?
Like some hellish pantomime
Now is the time
Yes, it’s the time
To Free Palestine.

So let us try to reflect
On our years of regret
Amid the killing and torture
We were eyeless in Warsaw
And like Pilate of old
Our guilt it was sold
The West washed its hand
Stealing another man’s land

Can you hear the missiles whine?
Like some hellish pantomime
Now is the time
Yes, it’s the time
To Free Palestine.

Now the Zionist state
Is so full of hate
That behind an iron shield
Its own hell does it wield
To kill and to maim
More lives still to claim
From near Calvary’s Cross
Their gain is our loss

Can you hear the missiles whine?
Like some hellish pantomime
Now is the time
Yes, it’s the time
To Free Palestine.

Poem: Spring Song

My life was filled with hope and wonder
The garden was so full
The apple blossom of my senses
And clouds of cotton wool

Where are they now?
Where are they now?
My children are gone
How can I go on?

I played in meadows of green pasture
The innocence of youth
The stinging nettles pricked my ankles
Learning lies from truth

Where are they now?
Where are they now?
My children are gone
How can I go on?

I stumbled crying in darkened forests
Terror filled my eyes
The guilt it choked me like a bullet
The pain had no disguise

Where are they now?
Where are they now?
My children are gone
How can I go on?

I looked for love in the face of strangers
Nothing could be found
I married blindly to be normal
But normality was drowned

Where are they now?
Where are they now?
My children are gone
How can I go on?

The spirit in the dark green bottles
Soothed the pain inside
Numbed my senses and the nightmares
The heart of me had died

Where are they now?
Where are they now?
My children are gone
How can I go on?

But then the dawn it broke quite quickly
I let my world break down
In the arms of love forever
All I lost was found

Where are they now?
Where are they now?
My children are gone
How can I go on?

And so we walk a chosen pathway
The horizon’s bright and clear
Holding on to those around me
Beyond the next frontier

Where are they now?
Where are they now?
My children are gone
But I have to go on

The Gaslight tapes

I HAVE been the victim of gaslighting.

And I didn’t even know it!

To understand anything which now follows, you probably will need to read my recent autobiographical blog piece entitled Denial. The posting tells the story of my denial of access and loss of my two middle daughters.

Following the publication of Denial on Sunday 9 March, I suddenly discovered by cruel irony that the perpetrators had poisoned other members of my family.

It was a sinister and unexpected shock and left me asking “Why?”

Then last weekend things became a lot clearer.

I had my best friend to stay. She wanted to help me come to terms with the most recent turn of events. She is my soul mate, my trustee and by chance a psychologist. She has known me for many years and knows most of my life. She had read my blog posting and was concerned. So during Saturday afternoon sat on our sofa, I filled in a few gaps and we chatted.

Then she turned to me and said suddenly: “You have been gaslighted.”

“It is a cruel and cunning and devious abuse tactic,” she added.

I gasped for an explanation.

So here it is: Gaslighting is a sophisticated manipulation tactic which is used to control and create doubt in the mind of the victim.

In a 1930s movie thriller entitled “Gas Light”,  a conniving husband tries to make the wife he wishes to get rid of think she is losing her mind by making subtle changes in her environment, including slowly and steadily dimming the flame on a gas lamp.

In recent years, the term “gaslighting” has come to be applied to attempts by certain kinds of people to create so much doubt and fear in the minds of their targets of exploitation that the victim no longer trusts their own judgment about things, thus coming under their power and control.

Sometimes, a person can assert something with such an apparent intensity of conviction that the other person begins to doubt their own perspective.

Bringing up historical facts that seem largely accurate but contain minute, hard-to-prove distortions and using them to “prove” the correctness of one’s position is another method.

Gaslighting is particularly effective when coupled with other tactics such as shaming and guilting. Anything that aids in getting another person to doubt their judgment and back down will work.

Deception is often the key ingredient in manipulation. Deception can be accomplished by outright denial, distortion of key aspects of events, and a variety of other methods, especially the more sophisticated lying techniques.

A really accomplished liar can deceive another person by merely reciting a litany of absolutely true things — while deliberately and cleverly leaving out one or two crucial elements that would change the entire character of what they’re trying to make you believe.

But a common element among all the tactics manipulators use is that they cause the person being targeted to doubt their gut instincts about what’s going on. Their gut tells them they’re under attack or that someone is trying to get the better of them, and they intuitively go on the defensive. But because they often can’t find any clear, direct, objective evidence that the other person is merely trying to disadvantage them, they start doubting and questioning themselves.

This is the real secret of effective manipulation. If the “target” were solidly convinced they were in the process of being done in, they’d more likely put up more resistance instead of capitulating.

Manipulators know this. They win by getting the other person to back down or give in.”

My friend then added: “The way I see it is that the person behind this is like a poison seed. That seed poisons those around to believe them and demonise you.”

So things began to become clearer:

  • The perpetrator could cite three of four instances in my life when I had lost my temper… therefore I had an “anger management problem”. Failing each time to mention the circumstances which led to the rational outburst of anger.
  • The perpetrator could prove that on a few occasions in my life I was treated for depression… therefore I was “mentally ill” and “must be dangerous”. Failing to point out that these occasions were separated by many years and were a natural reaction to overpowering life events, such as bereavement, cancer and loss of a job.
  • The perpetrator could point out that I had a criminal conviction… therefore I was “a criminal with an interest in young girls”. Failing to point out that the conviction was 30 years ago, had been fully spent since 1991, and was due to me immediately handing myself in to the police when I discovered the girl’s age.
  • The perpetrator could point out that I had moved 300 miles away and not seen my daughters for years… therefore I had “abandoned them”. Failing to point out that their mother had moved away and had prevented me from seeing my daughters.

And so on. Until those around them – mainly my daughters – believed all the blackening lies and half truths about me.

My friend said that I had been specifically a victim of gaslighting by proxy, which is described: “If all else fails, the abuser recruits friends, colleagues, family members, the authorities, institutions, neighbours, the media, teachers – in short, third parties – to do his bidding. Even the victim’s relatives, friends, and colleagues are amenable to the considerable charm, persuasiveness, and manipulativeness of the abuser. The abuser offers a plausible rendition of the events and interprets them to his favour.

“Others rarely have a chance to witness an abusive exchange first hand and at close quarters. In contrast, the victims are often on the verge of a nervous breakdown and are angry.

“Confronted with this contrast between a polished, self-controlled, and suave abuser and his harried casualties – it is easy to reach the conclusion that the real victim is the abuser, or that both parties abuse each other equally.

“The abuser perverts the system – therapists, counsellors, mediators, court-appointed guardians, police officers, and judges.

He uses them to pathologise the victim and separate him/her from their sources of emotional sustenance – notably, from their children.”

Dr Richard Gardner sums it up: “The purpose of the alienation is usually to gain or retain custody without the involvement of the father. The alienation usually extends to the father’s family and friends as well.

“Many of these children proudly state that their decision to reject their fathers is their own. They deny any contribution from their mothers. And the mothers often support this vehemently. In fact, the mothers will often state that they want the child to visit with the father and recognise the importance of such involvement, yet such a mother’s every act indicates otherwise.

“Such children appreciate that, by stating the decision is their own, they assuage mother’s guilt and protect her from criticism. Such professions of independent thinking are supported by the mother who will often praise these children for being the kind of people who have minds of their own and are forthright and brave enough to express overtly their opinions. Frequently, such mothers will exhort their children to tell them the truth regarding whether or not they really want to see their fathers.

“The child will usually appreciate that “the truth” is the profession that they hate the father and do not want to see him ever again. They thereby provide that answer – couched as “the truth” – which will protect them from their mother’s anger if they were to state what they really wanted to do, which is to see their fathers.

“After a period of programming the child may not know what is the truth anymore and come to actually believe that the father deserves the vilification being directed against him. The end point of the brainwashing process has then been achieved.”

So I turned to my friend exhausted. She hugged me and said: “Now you know what has happened to you. You are not alone, you are a beautiful person and those that love you and know you well are still with you and we all support you.”

My first lesson in human psychology was over!

 

Lost

THIS is part two of my Back from the Edge quartet and is entitled: Lost.
It is a letter to my children written in October 2005 during the break-up of my last marriage. It is a testament of my love for my kids and admission of my failures. I publish it now for them to read.

Every Grain of Sand
In the time of my confession, in the hour of my deepest need
When the pool of tears beneath my feet flood every newborn seed
There’s a dying voice within me reaching out somewhere,
Toiling in the danger and in the morals of despair.
Don’t have the inclination to look back on any mistake,
Like Cain, I now behold this chain of events that I must break.
In the fury of the moment I can see the Master’s hand
In every leaf that trembles, in every grain of sand.

WHEN I was a small child, I would gaze up into the night sky and marvel at the moon and the stars. And like many others, I would ask the question… why am I here? It is the unfathomable and timeless question that has haunted mankind for thousands of years. Yet it is a question that has stayed with me as I fast approach my 50th birthday.
Now as my marriage lies in ruins and my life seems at its lowest ebb, I have asked that question again and again. I must be frank with you; there have been times in the past 10 days when I have wanted to end it all – a quick painless suicide. But that is something I can never do for many, many reasons. God gave me back my life – first in 1987 and then again in 1988 – and He must have had a reason. Only God can take my life away. So I move on and try to make the rest of my life more meaningful and create peace where I tread.
My hero Bob Dylan once wrote:
“I wish I’d have been a doctor,
Maybe I’d have saved some life that had been lost,
Maybe I’d have done some good in the world
‘Stead of burning every bridge I crossed.”
…. and maybe that’s my starting point.
But where did it all go wrong and why am I a father to so many fatherless children and a failed husband again and again?
Ben – my first born, strong and my rock – but does he ever realise how much I love him and how proud of him I am?
My marriage to Ben’s mother was, in hindsight, a mistake. We were both too young and for the two of us it just seemed the right thing to do as our friends and peers all seemed to fall into line and tie the marital knot. Ann and I were opposites – she was a home girl married to her career and above all materialistic. I was none of those things and our partnership was one of unease and inconvenience. The only remarkable thing is we stayed married so long, even throughout my affair with W – prolonged in a weird way with my diagnosis of cancer. Our eventual divorce was a blessing for us both and we maintained a civil relationship for the next 10 years until Ben left school. Only lately has it become clear how emotionally churned up Ben became during the latter years of our marriage and how that damage has perpetuated into his adult life. I am so sorry for that.
T – so much like me it hurts – she was an absent love for more than 18 years and now I struggle to know how best to love her.
Social circumstances and the situation of the moment meant that T’s mother and I were never to be. We all make decisions in life, but sometimes like Hobson there is no choice left. But all these years later my greatest regret is that I could not have been there for T as she grew up. And it is a massive testament to her mother and her mother’s partner that she went through her childhood and adolescence undamaged, blossomed and is a beacon to us all as a wonderful young woman. Only by our reunion has she been exposed to emotional turmoil … and once more that is my doing. I am sorry.
Rhia – the gentle and beautiful emotional giant of my children – steady, bright and simply gorgeous.
Shannon – the spark in my life, effervescent and a mirror to my soul and in many ways my life.

If my marriage to Ann was a mistake, my union with the girls’ mother was a bigger blunder. She was from a different world to the one I inhabited. Even two years before the birth of our first child close, family told me to walk away from her. But I was caught in a web of emotions. Ironically, as the years passed and our children became our focus, our relationship became easier to deal with. And its eventual demise was a two-way avenue. I neglected her and my daughters in a relentless pursuit of career goals, while she found solace with another man. Our parting was a relief…. but that relief has been replaced by a living nightmare of alienation between my daughters and me … I dread to contemplate the long term emotional damage that could ensue.
Nathan – he will always be my wee one, even when he grows taller than me. Now and always my delight.
And so in my mid 40s I married Ruth and became a father once more. Spoken and unspoken family and friends asked whether the difference between us was fathomable. But we had something between us that I had not felt before. But the years between us eventually took its toll. Even a separation didn’t warn us to avoid the marriage contract. The relationship remained close and with the reunification with T, a family was at last born. I still struggle to accept that the marriage is over and fail to see anything else I could have done to save it. I guess that when a woman needs to “find herself”, it is a message that her husband is the wrong man.
So I stand at the crossroads in my life.
I can look back on achievement and mistakes, look around me at my children and my loving parents and stare again at the stars and ask the question. We only pass this way once and my reason for creation is evident in five faces and five lives.
It is the future that I must now work towards and for you my children this is part of a document of my love and life for you all.
17 October 2005

Poison Chapter 2

The Adventures of Nathan Sunnybank and Joe Greenfield
Book 1: Poison
Chapter Two

ON the edge of the coppice Nathan and Joe hugged quickly, collapsed together on a grassy bank and laughed out loud at their respective escapes.
“Dad was so engrossed in his new book, he won’t even realise I have gone for at least four hours,” said Nathan.
Joe grinned back from behind his shock of long brown hair before adding: “And with mum and Joy giving it some in the kitchen, they didn’t even notice me sneak out!”
“But what about Clara?” asked Nathan.
Joe broke into fits of laughter.
“She isn’t going anywhere, at least not till tea-time when mum goes to feed the horses and we will be miles away by then… tell you all about it later,” he chuckled.
Nathan sniggered before pointing to Joe’s bag and saying: “Okay, let’s see if we have everything.”
The two friends emptied their bags on the grass and carried out an inventory of everything they had brought.
Maps, money, knife, torch, biscuits, a stop watch, a packet of small plastic bags, some coloured elastic bands, spare underpants, two apples, the photo of TJ, one toothbrush between them and the jar of snake venom… all seemed to be in order.
“Aah mint, you’ve got chocolate fingers,” laughed Joe, while stuffing four of them into his mouth.
“And jelly beans!” sniggered Nathan, taking a handful of the multi-coloured flavoured sweets.
“Right,” he added, “We had better get going… the train leaves in 35 minutes.”
The two boys gazed across the fields towards the branch line railway station of Gresburton.
“Reckon we can get there in less than 15 minutes,” laughed Joe, repacking his bag. “Cummon!”
The two boys ran across the grass, down the hill towards the old red brick railway station.
Behind them, in the trees, the pair of angry brown eyes watched them.
And hidden in a dense rhododendron bush some 50 yards further back two piercing green eyes also watched.

“Whoo hoo!” Nathan shouted as the boys jumped a half rotten stile into the next field.
“Beat you there,” screamed Joe as he bustled past Nathan and took an early lead towards the railway station.
The sun beat down on the two friends as they raced their way into their dangerous adventure.
It would be the last time for a long while they would feel such innocent sunshine on their backs.

Suddenly Joe skidded to a stop by a large oak tree.
Nathan crashed into him and the two friends rolled onto the grass.
“What is this?” questioned Joe, pointing at a group of strange brown and grey fungi, growing around the base of the tree.
He reached out his hand to pick one.
As quick as lightning, Nathan punched Joe in the belly and yelled loudly at him: “No, don’t!”
Joe looked bruised and shocked by Nathan’s attack.
“Hey Nath, what you doing? I only want a closer look!”
“But you mustn’t even touch them,” Nathan retorted.
“They are Grey Skull Death Fungi. Their poison can even seep through the skin on your hands and you’d be really sick or even dead within minutes!”
Joe looked shocked.
Nathan continued: “They are really rare in this country and it’s only the second time I have ever seen them. I am amazed they are here.
“Look, can you see the skull-like imprint on the cap of the fungi?”
Joe’s face went its own deathly shade of grey as he listened to what Nathan said, and studied the strange image.
“Thank God your mum is a witch,” said Joe, nervously. “She has taught you so much.”
Nathan smiled.
“Well maybe not always, but she does know her fungi and poisons,” he replied.
“But they could be useful, let’s take a few.”
Joe sat on the grass in awe as Nathan took a small plastic bag from his canvas holdall, and, using it like a glove picked three fungi – before dropping them into another plastic bag and depositing it into a side pocket of the holdall.
“Right, let’s go, if we wanna catch that train,” Nathan snapped.

The boys continued their race across the fields and were soon on Pant Lane, just 100 metres from the railway station.
Then, almost like twins, they paused together and deliberated on their next move.
“Right,” said Joe.
“We need to decide how we are going to buy our tickets.
“You are only eleven and there is no way the guy at the ticket office will sell you a long distance train ticket without an adult with you,” he added.
“Yeah,” said Nathan.
“But even though you are thirteen and a few inches taller than me, you still don’t look old enough.
“And anyway we need to get this first train without anyone being able to trace us… that’s why I brought so much cash!”
They both looked blank for a moment.
Then Joe broke the silence.
“Got an idea,” he whispered.
“Never used one before, but seen Joy buy her train tickets on her days off at a machine near the station door.
“Reckon we can work out how to do it?”
The boys chuckled and nodded a ‘yes’ to each other.
Carefully they walked to the station entrance, paused, looked round to check they were alone and approached the ticket machine.
Nathan read the instructions on a white notice at the front of the blue computerised box.
“Reckon I know how,” he said.
He chose their destination of London Euston, via Shrewsbury, and touched the screen, then he selected a single ticket and a junior half fare option.
He gasped when the machine told him to insert £65.
“Wow, that’s expensive,” he said hesitating. Then he carefully unrolled a bundle of notes from his back pocket.
He inserted the bank notes and waited while the machine coughed up £5 change and a small green ticket.
Nathan read the ticket carefully and turned to his friend.
“Okay Joe… your turn!”
Joe followed the same sequence and within a minute had his own ticket stuffed into his jeans’ pocket.
He looked at his watch.
“We got just 10 minutes,” he said.
“Fancy a can of coke?”
The boys walked briskly onto the station platform, checked the departure notice and strolled across to the drinks vending machine.
With somewhat greater ease they bought two cans of coke.
The sweet pop invigorated them after their busy morning in the sun.
Their adventure really had begun.
After what seemed only a few minutes a three carriage train rolled into the station.
Joe checked the train number against the departure board and nodded to Nathan.
“This is it!” he whispered.
The boys climbed into the first carriage, stowed their bags under their seats and sat smiling, looking out onto the platform opposite.
On a bench just 20 metres away, they recognised Mr Taylor, their football coach, sitting reading a newspaper.
The boys looked down, and grinned.
They heard a guard blow a whistle and the surge of the electric engine as the train prepared to move off.
One carriage back, two angry – and now intensely curious – brown eyes watched them from behind a high-backed seat.
And in the last carriage two green eyes also peered out from under a luggage rack.

Poison Chapter 1

The Adventures of Nathan Sunnybank and Joe Greenfield
Book 1: Poison
Chapter One

NATHAN stirred under the duvet and blinked his sleepy eyes. The late July sun was burning into the blinds of his bedroom window, whispering that it was almost midday.
The boy stirred again and he peered out into the golden glow of the room. He knew he should be up by now… but last night had been very late – past midnight even – he was so tired, and, after all, Dad said there was no rush today.
“No rush,” he asked himself. “Why?”
The reason slowly dawned… it was the first day of the summer holidays.
“Yep,” he thought. “Six whole weeks and no school!”
Life couldn’t get any better.
Or could it?
Nathan stirred for a third time and as he crawled out of bed, he remembered something far more important… the quest that he and his best friend Joe had vowed to undertake.
A quest that could take the whole six weeks of the holidays… and that was a little frightening.

A mile away at Greenfield Mansion, Joe was humming to himself in quiet contentment.
He had just locked his sister Clara in the horse stable store and was now stroking his brother’s venomous Green Tree Viper Sid, while contemplating other plans for Clara.
In the distance, he could hear her cries of “Let me out, let me out, let me out, you little ……”
But Joe could not hear her last word, he was too proud of how he had lured his horrible sister into the storehouse and then persuaded her to find the lost set of car keys he had secreted on the back shelf, while he triumphantly turned and locked the door.
“Well, that’s her out of the way till tea-time,” he thought.
Joe’s pet wolf Blue licked his hand, while paying an unhealthy interest in the viper.
The boy toe-poked Blue away and began to milk the venom from the snake into the finger of a rubber glove.
He sat and watched the yellow fluid drip dangerously into the small jar he had rested on the patio table.
“That should be enough,” he thought.
He trusted that his older brother Sam – Glenwing University’s leading expert on poisonous reptiles – would not notice that his prized snake was now completely dry.
But Sam being Sam, Joe was sure he would understand, even if he had taken more venom than should.
Joe now carefully carried the viper into his brother’s reptile sanctum beyond the stables and returned it to its aquarium.
Momentarily, he looked at the large King Brown snake in the corner cabinet and thought of Clara again, but his conscience knew better and he went back outside.
Joe smiled and relaxed his shoulders. His musings turned to Nathan and their dangerous quest.
He laughed out loud in contemplation and stopped to listen to whether his sister was still calling out.
But all was silent.

In the kitchen, Lady Greenfield was yelling at the scullery maid.
“More bleach! More bleach… these Belfast sinks need more bleach, they are a disgrace!”
The maid stopped sweeping the dog hairs from the quarry-tiled floor and muttered: “Yes Felicity… I mean ma’am, I will do it right away!”
Then she muttered more quietly: “Blinking bleach and dogs, I really don’t need this job… thank God that blinking wolf isn’t allowed indoors!”
Lady Greenfield sipped ice chilled champagne from a cut glass flute, her freckled face smiled with contentment as she carried on potting up her geraniums.
“I love clean sinks,” she thought to herself, “almost as much as morning champers!”
The maid hurried to the scullery cupboard to open another case of Domestic Quick Action bleach, as Joe slipped past the two adults and into the west wing hallway.
Once there, he tiptoed up the back staircase to his bedroom.
In the corner of the room, next to his drum kit, was the khaki canvas shoulder bag he had packed the night before.
He carefully slipped the jar of snake venom into a side pocket of the bag, stashed a bag of jelly beans into another pocket along with his favourite high powered torch.
“Now I must get over and see Nathan,” he thought.
The next bit was going to be tricky.

Back at Landfill Cottage, Nathan was also preparing for the quest ahead.
He too had packed a small canvas holdall and was adding some essentials: a box of chocolate fingers, his grandfather’s old war-time combat knife, two carefully folded maps and the old mobile phone his sister had given him.
He walked over to his bedside table and quietly dragged it away from the wall.
Nathan stooped low and rolled back the edge of the carpet and from under the green rug took a large brown envelope.
He replaced the carpet and table and sat on his bed with the envelope on his lap.
But a sudden panic overtook his next action and he rushed to his bedroom door and crept onto the landing.
He lay by the stairwell banisters and peered downstairs.
The coast was clear.
Nathan returned to his bed and opened the envelope.
He counted the £20 notes inside… exactly 18 of them.
“£360 should be enough,” he thought, “Just hope we get everything finished before dad realises I sold my X Box and his old electric guitar on Ebay!” he chuckled nervously.
He stuffed the wad of banknotes into his jeans back pocket and slipped his hand into the envelope to pull out a small, but clear, photograph and a handwritten note.
He looked at the photo carefully.
“Oh TJ,” he whispered, “I do hope we find you and make you better.”
The face in the photo was of a 20-something-year-old girl with a broad smile, blue eyes and long blonde hair. She was cuddling a baby orang-utan and the background of the picture betrayed a tropical jungle.
Nathan brushed back his own blonde hair from his forehead and small tears welled in his blue eyes.
Everything gathered, he slipped on a light waterproof jacket and with the canvas bag under his left arm, crept downstairs.
He stopped in the hallway of the cottage for a moment and peeked through the crack of the old study door.
Sitting at the desk, his father was hunched over, writing more chapters of his new book and vaguely staring at two separate photos on his desk.
“In another world,” thought Nathan, as he made his way to the back door.
“Sorry, Dad, but you will understand one day,” he said quietly.
He left a scrawled note on the conservatory table, walked out into the sunshine and made his way across the neighbouring field in the direction of Greenfield Mansion.

Joe’s escape was fraught with more difficulty and danger than his friend.
First, he realised that the back doors were patrolled by his mother and the scullery maid, Joy.
The dogs would surely bark if he exited through the veranda, and Bob the butler, and Helen Wills, the cook – both about their daily duties – blocked the other outside doors.
So, bag over shoulder, Joe clambered out of the sash window of his bedroom and, perched between a black drainpipe and an ancient Virginia Creeper, he began his descent.
Halfway down, he glanced into the distance beyond the coppice and garden wall and could just make out Nathan ambling over the hill.
Joe let himself fall to the ground and sprinted for the cover of the herbaceous border and the trees beyond.
He was safe and now the quest could begin.
But a short distance away, from behind rusty wrought iron railings of an old air-raid shelter, a pair of angry brown eyes watched his every move.